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tv   Washington Week With Gwen Ifill  PBS  May 2, 2014 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT

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gwen: good news on jobs. mixed news on foreign policy. and voters weigh in on the first critical mid-term primaries. tonight on "washington week." the jobless rate drops to its lowest point in 5 1/2 years. and the dow hits new highs. a spring economy. but at the white house, foreign policy is front and center. >> our only interest is for ukraine to be able to make its own decisions. and the last thing we want is disorder and chaos in the center of europe. gwen: diplomacy, fence mending and saber rattling all on one stage. while mid-term politics gets going in earnest in north
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carolina. with a vulnerable democrat in peril. >> i've been cleaning up kay hagen's mess. i know what it's like to come behind kay hagen and see the failed policies. gwen: the rubber begins hitting the road. covering the week, jim tankersley of "the washington post." alexis simendinger of real clear politics. janet hook of "the wall street journal." and charles babington of the associated press. >> award-winning reporting and analysis. covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we went out and asked people a simple question -- how old is the oldest person you've known? we gave people a sticker and had them show us. we learned a lot of us have known someone who's lived well into their 90's. and that's a great thing.
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but even though we're living longer, one thing that hasn't changed, the official retirement age. the question is, how do you make sure you have the money you need to enjoy all of these years? >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. brigham and women's hospital. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. we follow the news closely whenever it was bad, bailouts, shutdowns, long-term joblessness. but today, the news was good. 288,000 new jobs last month. driving the unemployment rate down to 6.3%.
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>> all told, our businesses have now created 9.2 million new jobs over 50 consecutive months of job growth. the grit and determination of the american people are moving us forward. but we have to keep a relentless focus on job creation and creating more opportunities for working families. gwen: there is always a but in these announcements. or at least even in the celebrations at the white house after these announcements. what's today's but, jim? >> the big but today is that the unemployment rate dropped is not what it appears to be. it's not that we've had so many jobs created that we brought down unemployment. it's that we had a huge number of people who dropped out of the labor force. which is not good. but let's step back. there's a but to the but. the but to the but is -- there is. it's a lot of -- it's a lot of jobs and we've had a lot of jobs for a few months in a row now and this is a good thing. and we should celebrate that. the bad news is it's not as good as the unemployment rate would lead us to believe because we want people in the labor force and want them
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looking for work. there are still 10 million people who are looking for work and can't find it. which is way too many. but there are millions more on top of that. who have just given up. gwen: we're always looking for a subtext in these numbers. as we -- especially bad usually these unemployment numbers are bad for minorities. they're bad for teenagers. how did that break down? >> yeah. it's the same. it's still -- we have i think the lowest unemployment rate for african-americans in several years now. which is a good thing. but it's still much higher than the rate for whites. this is true also for young people. and true for noncollege graduates compared to college graduates. these are the structural divides in our economy right now for a lot of reasons. and they have not changed in the way that these numbers have gone up and down. so it's just one more reason why if we had a lot more jobs, we would have more people in those groups who would be working and until we get to what economists call full employment, where the optimal number of jobs exist in the economy for the number of people who are looking, until
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we get there, it's hard to feel good about this from those groups' perspective. >> it still does feel like a big jump in employment. basically a good thing. the but that i wonder about is what they announced earlier in the week was a really kind of disappointing g.d.p. economic growth number. how do you square these two different -- completely different signals? >> right. yeah. it looks really -- gwen: and triangulated with the stock market as well. which had a record high this week. >> right. so the economy sometimes does not speak in any kind of a clear voice, which is difficult. i think what it's telling us right now are a few things. one, the g.d.p. number looks like it might be off a little bit. we had a lot of weather happen in the first part of this year. that may have held things down artificially. you would expect those kind of job numbers that it would be revised up. and you hope that at least. but the stock market i think tells us that we have a bifurcated recovery. and the people at the top are still doing much, much better.
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and people own stocks and own capital. whereas people in the middle, at the bottom who are still looking for work and aren't getting much of a raise these days and that's still true in these numbers, they're not doing as well. >> if the hiring was robust, and i'm paying attention to out there, am i going to get a raise? because that's what a lot of people are going to be thinking. are these employers going to give workers raises? >> we sure would like to see that. we sure don't see much evidence of it. inflation is low. but it's still -- wage growth is not much higher than inflation. and again, until you have that moment where there are really more openings than there are job seekers in terms of that optimal level of employment, until you have that competition to hire good people, it's really there when you have a lot of job openings. you're not going to see that kind of wage pressure. and so until we get to full employment, i think we're going teofilo wage growth. gwen: you're talking about wage numbers. >> the amount of money people earn for an hour's work,
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absolutely. >> what about the federal reserve? is the fed going to look at these numbers and change policy in any way? or are they just going to keep sitting tight? >> what the fed's doing right now is it's slowly withdrawing the stimulus. the level of stimulus that it's giving to the economy. it's still giving stimulus. this quantitative easing. but it's reducing the amount of the stimulus. and i think we're going to continue to see that apace. i don't think there's anything here that's going to make them absolutely accelerate it. but there's certainly nothing that's going to make them think restimulating to a larger degree. >> do numbers like this translate to confidence level, to purchasing power, to other more difficult to quantify effects on the economy? >> the thing that we would really like to see it translate to is some real confidence business owners. if there is a sense that a real recovery, like what -- sometimes we call escape velocity was finally taking hold, all these years after the recession ended then maybe we would see a lot of that
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sidelined corporate cash be spent. a lot of hiring happen. and then it would be this virtuous cycle going up. we don't really see that yet. there's more. but it's not like boom, skyrocketing job growth which we would expect. gwen: these companies are sitting in cash and we don't expect to see a minimum wage bill go through? >> i don't -- we don't -- certainly when you read the politics in washington we do not see much of a minimum wage bill going through. gwen: we'll take whatever good news we can get around here. thank you very much, jim. the conflict in ukraine which for the u.s. and its european allies has really become a conflict with russia is resonating in several directions. some of that was on display today at the white house. where president obama and german chancellor angela merkel endeavored to present a united front, punishment if russia does not disengage. >> if it continues to destabilize, eastern ukraine and disrupt this month's presidential election we will move quickly on additional
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steps. including further sanctions that will impose greater cost but that's a choice facing the russian leadership. gwen: some of the fallout is affecting how americans view their second term president. in the latest "wall street journal"/nbc news poll, nearly half of those surveyed say that the u.s. should be less active in world affairs. and approval of the president's handling of foreign policy has dropped to its lowest point ever. so what did the white house do this week to speak to that? alexis? >> so the president and the administration started the week by talking about another round of tough sanctions. most of the sanctions that started the week that the administration announced were aimed at the circle right around vladimir putin. president putin of russia. it was aimed at about seven different individuals and about 17 businesses or entities. and the idea was to put blockades on our asset freezes on those individuals and the companies they controled. and they were considered either government officials right around the president of russia
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or his -- what the administration finally calls his cronies. so the idea was to begin to dial it up again this week as punishment in this particular case, the week started off with the president arguing very loudly as he did again today with chancellor merkel that russia has shown absolutely no progress toward honoring the geneva statement that was ironed out in april that was supposed to be the diplomatic step forward that russia and ukraine were supposed to get together. gwen: but janet, it seems sometimes like the president, there's this rock and this hard place, right? and "the wall street journal," nbc news poll showed this week, that he can't win for losing. people want him to get tough and do these sanctions sooner than later and don't really want us to be involved in foreign policy that much. >> really. this -- the rob and the hard place really came into view in our new poll. as you pointed out the top line thing was this real sense of an inward looking electorate. people really just having
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enough with engagement in the world. i mean, it's kind of like a stay at home america. half of the people saying that they want to have a less active government. and that's the kind of finding that helps you understand why obama's moving kind of cautiously, why rand paul is kind of a potential presidential candidate among republicans is because this sentiment does cross party lines. but the message is really not unambiguous. because on the other hand when we asked about the style of leadership that people want from the president, more than half the people said that they wanted a president who projected strength in foreign policy. and like 30%, much less, said that they wanted a more open, accommodating i want to negotiate. so it's a real push-pull. gwen: what the president had to say, this week he was in manila and at the end of his asian trip, in the philippines and he was asked this very question. he seemed a little frustrated. >> yeah. gwen: let's listen to a little bit of that. >> typically, criticism of our
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foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. and the question i think i would have is why is everybody so eager to use military force? after we've just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? gwen: that's the problem, isn't it? >> talk a little bit about our european allies. you mentioned german chancellor merkel who was at the white house today. the germans have not been very enthusiastic about sanctions. i think -- what about the broader european community or other important european allies more of her thinking or are they more of a get tough with russia? >> so the president has turned to chancellor merkel because of the relationship that germany has with russia and because the germans are considered so central to bringing the europeans along. and you could see today in the rose garden the struggle that the europeans. you could see it on display.
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because she said a number of times we will go to the next tier. and she described the trigger for that being the may 25 elections that are scheduled in ukraine. if they're disrupted, if there's a provocation that prevents them from going forward. but she kept saying, but this is not what we want to do. and she also very forcefully indicated that most of the european nations understand at they would be hurt if the energy sector is in the next tranch of serious economic sanctions. because many of the european countries get a majority if not almost all of their oil and gas -- >> it would hit average citizens. >> it would affect the global economy. and president obama has not been secretive about that. he has also indicated that. his body language with chancellor merkel was very conciliatory to this concept. and he actually did volunteer today in the discussion that it would be unrealistic to imagine turning off the tap was the phrase he used.
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that that had not even happened during the cold war. so he was signaling that each country may want to go in its own direction. but that the purpose of the united states and germany standing together was as gwen has already indicated to show some level of unity that there will be a walking forward together even if each country goes maybe a slightly different direction on sanctions. >> he does seem to be putting the highest priority on maintaining unity with europe. which sometimes -- it's -- run afoul of the pressures he gets from other places. critics say he's not exerting american leadership. and even -- republicans in congress are saying he should do more. you should arm the ukrainians. how does the president juggle those kinds of cross pressures? gwen: and i might add there's another item in your poll, 48% of those polled said that globalization is bad. that doesn't speak to any pat on the back for any kind of walking in unity. >> i think the president is buffeted by the kinds of things that showed up in the polls.
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so his job approval in your poll goes up in the month that you all looked at. but it goes down on the -- on his job approval on ukraine and on international policy. and he's looking at republicans in congress who are saying etting tougher, intervene more but the american people across party lines that's not what the american people want to see and he understands and he also talked today of course leading into this discussion, what was the first thing he wanted to talk about? were the job numbers. he wanted to talk about the economy. the domestic, keep bringing it back to domestic policy. so the buffeting part is not going to get settled. >> janet, can you help me understand what the american people actually want here? are they feeling more isolationist -- gwen: and once you figure it out tell the president because he would like to know, toofment >> are they yearning for a simpler time in foreign policy? at does the poll suggest the way driving -- >> there are conflicting
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conclusions we heard. one when asked about obama's foreign policy style, 40% said he struck a pretty good balance between bold and cautious. but 30% said he was too cautious. and so -- and you see this decline in his support for his handling of ukraine. well, you don't think that's because he's been too bold? i don't know. truth to tell the secret factor, the not secret but the hidden factor that's not mentioned anywhere in our poll is i think this is the legacy of george w. bush's presidency. that even still today, his -- the decade of very active american involvement militarily still hangs over what people feel about things. like enough already. long wars. and i do think that the hidden thing in the question, do you want to be more or less active? it's not just active. it's militarily involved. and i think people are really, really done with -- gwen: and there's something about this president and this presidency or is it just second
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term-itis that makes people -- to use the weak word to describe him? we remember when h.w. bush had the "wimp" cover on tisme time and knaus week -- on "time" and news week. >> he ran to disengage from the world. and you just don't have the sense that he's just longing to exercise military strength. and it happens also that the problems that have been presented to him thrust in front of him are not very easily amenable to simple military solutions anyway. so that i think even bob corker isn't talking about mobilizing troops to solve the problem in the ukraine. in ukraine and russia. gwen: even though he's calling what the president is doing rhetoric. he's calling for sanctions, rhetoric. >> i would also add that pollsters keep mentioning the loss of trust that americans have in government. and that's across a lot of different issues. and that keeps coming up.
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and that may be playing a part in the second term. gwen: i wonder in this case whether the loss of trust on foreign policy alone can be traced back to syria. and the lack of action in syria. and walking up to the brink and then not acting. is that something the white house worries about? >> it could be the middle east. it could be iran. it could be as janet is suggesting there are few places in the world where you can say look at the beautiful success of that policy over the last five years. >> yeah. i think the syrian thing about the back-and-forth on syria wasn't just that he didn't intervene. but that he said he wanted to and then didn't and he was pulled back. but he was pulled back by congress as much as anything. and maybe he misread public opinion. he certainly misread congress. >> and the british. >> and the british. right. right. that they pulled the rug out from under him. gwen: if there are new sanctions what will trigger that next step? i heard two different versions of what the trigger is this week. >> monday we started off the
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week by learning from the administration that the trigger looked more like it would be troops crossing over the ukraine border from russia. actual russian military intervention. or intercession. today, in the rose garden we heard a different trigger. and that trigger is the may 25 elections. and the president listened to chancellor merkel -- gwen: in ukraine. >> in ukraine and listened as she described this as very important to her, to germany, to let this ride out until we can see whether the elections will actually take place in order to elect a new president. and the president acknowledged this and confirmed that this was a new trigger for the united states working with europe. gwen: interesting. well, maybe we'll watch that and find out whether people respond more -- more americans respond to the idea of doing something for the sake of democracy than doing something for the sake of respecting someoneless' borders. we'll see. thank you both. as 2014 unspools, we will be dipping in from time to time as voters go to the polls to send their latest message to
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washington. there will be 13 party primaries this month. several of which will be a test of incumbency, liberals survivability and tea party strength. this week in ng, a bit of all of that will be on view as republicans compete to challenge vulnerable senate democrat kay hagan. chuck's been covering the goings on in his home state. what would you say is going on in your home state, chuck? >> well, was there a few days last week. and tuesday is the republican primary for -- for the nomination to run against kay hagan in the senate race. it's got -- it's a crowded pry march but really three prominent candidates. we saw tom tillis in video at the top of the show here. he is the establishment candidate. he's the speaker of the statehouse. he's got the backing of the chamber of commerce and many other groups. there was a lot of thinking, gwen, that he would be pushed really hard by a tea party candidate named greg brannon. and a -- christian right candidate named mark harris. it's possible they'll do well on tuesday.
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but the thinking among a lot of people there is that these guys did not do what they needed to do. they didn't perform particularly well in the three debates that took place. they didn't get a lot of money. they just haven't generated much enthusiasm and attention. and i think one thing we've learned from this is for all the talk about tea party insurgency, these things don't just happen by themselves. you have to have the right mix of candidate, money, issues. gwen: who's got the money and the issues? >> right now, tom tillis definitely has the money. although a lot of the money is being spent against kay hagan by outside groups. and we can talk about that more if you like. but tillis has not just the money, but because he's speaker of the house, he has the leadership, the governor's endorsed him. the other senator richard burr has endorsed him. so that -- in a kind of low energy primary that seems to be so far, that helps a lot. >> chuck, if t seems like for the longest time kay hagan wasn't running against a republican. she was running against americans for prosperity. this big conservative group that's running all these ads
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against her. it will be refreshing to have a real candidate to focus on. is it clear that there is going to have to be a runoff, does tillis have it locked up or do you think he's going to have to go another round? what's the rule that he has to get 40%? >> 40%. a little less than the 50% threshold. the thinking earlier was that it probably would be a runoff and now can tillis avoid a runoff? if there is a runoff would be july 15. a good ways away. that could be a problem for tillis. because in the interim, there's going to be a special session of the state legislature. which means he's speaker of the house will be very front and center and he said he absolutely will not step aside from his job as speaker. in the legislature, it has been pretty controversial in north carolina because the republicans have taken control of the legislature as well as the governor's office. and they've really moved to a much more conservative agenda. that's one of the main issues that kay hagan wants to use. so it could be problematic. probably not fatal if tom tillis doesn't -- if he gets into a runoff.
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but he would have a lot of advantages in a runoff as well. >> chuck, we keep hearing either senate majority leader harry reid or other democrats try to castigate republicans for relying on outside money. and tried to encourage voters to think of that as a suspicious sort of intrusion into the state. talk about the outside money that's coming in in north carolina and maybe the koch brothers. >> a group affiliated with the billionaire brothers, koch brothers, more outside money has been spent in this race than any other, millions of tv ads attacking kay hagan overwhelmingly on obamacare and she supported obamacare. and there have been some other groups as well. so she's just been getting pounded while the republicans can sort of run their primary race. and it is interesting that it's not the republican party that's pounding her and not a
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candidate who's doing it. and this really is the -- we're seeing the fruits of the citizens united case that basically let unlimited money, millions and millions of dollars, can go into these types of ads and you don't have to disclose who's doing it. that's been a problem for hagan. her approval ratings are not very good now. she'll have a lot of work to do to try to improve that. but she has a lot of time. >> do you think the voters are paying attention to where the money comes from? >> no. she's trying to get them to do that. i think it's a hard thing to do. most people have no idea who the koch brothers are and probably hard to get them to care, i think. gwen: ok. we're going to be watching a lot of other to see if this means anything for kentucky, arkansas, there are a lot of other states we're going to be watching to see if this very same sort of thing plays out. >> yeah, exactly. kentucky, there's a tea party candidate who's having a hard time against mitch mcconnell. gwen: ok. all right. and thank you very much, we have to go now.
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the conversation will continue online. that's where you'll find the "washington week" webcast extra. we stream live at 8:30 p.m. eastern or you can find it all week long at pbs.org/washingtonweek. among other things on the webcast, we'll talk about that awkward white house moment when the german chancellor was asked about u.s. spying. keep up with developments with me and judy road rough on "the pbs newshour." and we'll see you here next week on "washington week." good night. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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transporting crude oil by rail is sparking safety concerns and pulling the rental map from air surface plus, a one on one with governor jerry brown. >> i'm john myers in sacramento, this historic governor's mansion has history inside and nobody knows that better than jerry brown. we sat down for a conversation about california politics and why he wants an unprecedented fourth term as governor.

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